Cork City’s failure in a last ditch effort to survive a winding up order and the FAI’s subsequent decision to accept an application from fans’ group FORAS to create a new entity in the First Division has done more than simply make me need to re-think this article.
For the Premier Division it likely takes the heat off most sides that may have been concerned with battling relegation, that being the normal kind where teams that do badly at football and not basic business management drop a division. Instead the likely scenario is that Bray will return to the top flight with a side in no fit state to cope, pushing Galway up into the playoff position. Realistically it’s hard to see Galway doing any better than that if all the other sides stay intact but it’s far from certain they will.
For the First Division the mess just gets murkier. The nine teams which remain from last season must not know what to think. Reborn versions of two former top flight clubs (Derry City and Cork) are now in the division and it’s hard to know what kind of an impact they will have on the division. From a league perspective the ideal finish for both would be some kind of mid-table mediocrity, if for no other reason than so those running Irish football can pause for breath. Think about it, if either got promoted there’d be a risk of a Premier licence being denied for the subsequent season. On the other hand, if the squads are so weak that they end up in the playoff with an A League team, or worse lose such a playoff, then the very point of these re-jigged clubs being entered in the First Division would be moot.
Followers of Irish soccer are in no way unfamiliar with clubs going to the wall or getting up to some sort of bizarre shenanigans but the current explosion of issues is making it hard for the average supporter to get their head straight. Putting all the issues about the league’s image aside for a moment, they’re important but anyone who cares knows why clubs going bust or acting improperly looks bad (hint: because it is bad), the primary objective surely for the league’s management is to bring some sense of normality and calm back to proceedings. If the League of Ireland could achieve one off-season where the core fan-bases of all clubs, irrespective of media speculation*, know what the league will look like the next year once the promotion/relegation playoffs are finished that would make for the quietest off-season in recent memory.
*I hate to use that word because it’s not really speculation if it’s accurate. If an off-season could happen when there’s either no speculation or at least any speculation there is proves to be wrong, that would be an achievement for the league.
By my count exactly two clubs, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians, weren’t directly affected by the demise of Cork. They were going to battle it out for the title irrespective of the decision and in truth only incidents specifically involving those clubs (which in Rovers case could only really be an unfortunate spate of injuries) will change that.